More than six decades laterin a crib box left on a Philadelphia road, police have publicly identified his remains.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, authorities announced that the child, who over the years became known aswas 4-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli. His body was originally found in February 1957, wrapped in a blanket and placed in a cardboard box in a wooded area of northeastern Philadelphia, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Officials say the child appeared to be malnourished when his remains were discovered, he had several scars on his body and his hair appeared to have been roughly cropped shortly before. The state of his remains prevented researchers until recently from determining the exact age of the boy, who was previously estimated to be between four and six years old. And despite continued public interest in the case, now considered one of Philadelphia’s oldest and most mysterious unsolved murders, Zarelli’s parents never stepped forward to claim him after the brutal murder.
Police said on Thursday they were finally able to identify Zarelli’s remains using a combination of detective work and DNA analysis, which enabled them to check DNA profiles against a genealogy database.
“For 65 years, the story of who would become known as America’s unknown child has haunted this community,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at the morning press conference. “Philadelphia Police, our nation and the world. When people think of The Boy in the Box, a deep sadness is felt. Not just because a child was murdered, but because his entire identity and his rightful claim to existence was taken away.”
Outlaw noted that the police announcement “closes one chapter in the deceased boy’s story, while opening a new one” as the longstanding cold case remains unsolved. An active murder investigation is still ongoing as authorities continue to search for a suspect, the police commissioner said.
Police are offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.